Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz issued a government statement in the German Bundestag on the upcoming EU summit. He started by mentioning his visit to Israel. After the horrific Hamas attack, it had been very important for him to be there in person to emphasis that: “Germany is firmly at the side of Israel in this difficult time.”
Support for Ukraine and the limitation of irregular migration will be further important issues at the European Council. The meeting of heads of state and government of the European Union will take place in Brussels on 26 and 27 October.
Hostages must be released without conditions
In his discussions in Israel and Egypt, the Federal Chancellor had urged that the conflict should not escalate regionally: “We all agree that such a conflagration would be devastating for the whole region,” he said. This is why Hezbollah or Iran must not intervene in this war, he stressed.
Freeing the hostages was a crucial task. It had been important to him to meet with relatives of the abducted people on the spot in Israel. Scholz said that the conversations had moved him deeply. The relatives had described to the Federal Chancellor that many of those who had been abducted had always advocated for the region to develop in a peaceful way. The message to Hamas was clear, Scholz said: “They must be released without conditions.“
But humanitarian aid for the citizens in Gaza was also an important issue. “They are just as much victims and hostages of Hamas,” Scholz said. In his opinion, it might now be possible to guarantee the essential provision of food, water and medicines.
Clear stand against antisemitism
Federal Chancellor Scholz also announced tough action by authorities in Germany against antisemitism and the glorification of violence. The authorities must not allow any demonstrations in which antisemitic slogans are shouted and violence is glorified, he said. “A clear stand is needed here and we are showing it together in Germany,” said Scholz.
He had also been able to tune into a European Council video conference from Tel Aviv, during which these questions were discussed. It was clear that: “We as the European Union also stand united at the side of Israel and will continue to do so together.”
Further support for Ukraine
In addition to the Middle East conflict, the upcoming EU summit would discuss support for Ukraine. Scholz promised the country further arms supplies and financial support, pledging that Germany would put together a winter package for the besieged country. The main focus, he said, was on everything needed for air defence. He had been absolutely outraged that Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned of civilian victims in the Middle East conflict. “It really doesn’t get more cynical than that,” the Federal Chancellor said.
In Europe, too, there would have to be a discussion about how to finance aid for Ukraine. This would also the medium-term financial framework of the EU. “We have a clear standpoint on this. We, as Europeans, must guarantee this aid for Ukraine and for the country’s financial stability collectively,” Scholz said.
Strengthening competitiveness by dismantling bureaucracy
Scholz explained that the European Council would discuss questions which are important for the future of Europe, including the issue of how to strengthen the EU’s competitiveness. To this end, the commission had now made suggestions for the dismantling of bureaucracy. “I will do everything to ensure that we tackle this in reality, that it doesn’t just remain on paper,” Scholz emphasised.
Limiting irregular migration
An important point at the EU summit would be limiting irregular migration within Europe and to Germany, Scholz said: “One of the major challenges we have to overcome is how to deal with irregular migration.” The number of people who come to Europe with no prospect of a right to remain must be reduced quickly and by a considerable amount, he said.
Reform of the joint European asylum system
One of the solution approaches, he said, was the reform of the joint European asylum system. Scholz said that the reform constituted “great progress which is exactly in our interest,” because European asylum reform was a “European solidarity mechanism in which the countries affected by secondary migration have a particularly strong interest.”
Germany was especially affected by secondary migration, he said. Many of those who appeared for the first time at the German borders had come through many other countries in Europe without ever being registered. The reform of the joint European asylum system was intended to change this: “Everyone should be registered in the countries where they first arrive,” said Scholz.
Accelerating asylum procedures
Scholz stressed the importance of enabling faster asylum procedures in Germany. A contribution to this would be made by the large-scale deportation package which is to be adopted by the end of this year. “It will make it easier to carry out deportations. It will make it easier to ascertain identities. It will make it easier to deal with those who keep returning and trying to make new applications,” said the Federal Chancellor. Another important point, he said, was migration agreements. These help rejected asylum seekers to return to their countries of origin.
Federal Chancellor Scholz explained that the municipalities had a great need for workers and that the local people did not understand why many of the refugees were not allowed to work. The Federal Chancellor therefore announced: “We will expand the possibilities for those who are and remain here as refugees to work, with laws that clear away bureaucratic obstacles to local action and ensure that this works in practice.”
Humanity and order
Scholz stressed his support for the measures undertaken by the municipalities and Länder: “At any rate, I welcome it when charitable work is offered locally. I support the offering in institutions of benefits in kind instead of cash payments. This possibility already exists in legislation. And I support federal states and municipalities in their plans to develop a standardised payment card with which to handle payment traffic.”
Federal Chancellor Scholz rounded off his government statement with a promise: “Our citizens expect humanity and order. They expect the federal, Länder and municipal authorities to pull together. That’s what we’re doing. And we will keep doing so in the future.”